Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassady (Books 2019, 5)

An iPad showing the cover of the first 'Planetary' collection, on a wooden floor, alongside an ocarina

You’ve probably wondered what’s happened to my reading lately. Truth is, I have several things on the go, some or all of which I’ll finish eventually.

Meanwhile, here’s the latest of my reading of Warren’s superhero-type things. It’s pretty good: better than Stormwatch, which I wrote about last year, or The Authority, which for some reason I didn’t. The latter group make a guest appearance here. Multiverse-crossing, and all that.

Not the best thing I’ve read, but not bad.

Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassady (Books 2019, 5)

Stormwatch by Warren Ellis, Tom Raney and Bryan Hitch (Books 2018, 30)

I don’t always include all comic-type things here. No particular reason why, except maybe that they sometimes feel too short and not substantial enough. I probably wouldn’t have included this, except that it conveniently gets my total for the year to thirty.

It’s a post-Watchmen story of superheroes handled in a vaguely realist fashion. At least in the sense that there’s some consideration of politics. Stormwatch is a UN body, an emergency response team. It has it’s base in a satellite, and superhuman beings who are tasked with dealing with incursions from other worlds, or other, nefarious, super-powered beings. The US is usually antagonistic to it, because of its UN status.

It’s not bad, but honestly not much to write home about.

Stormwatch by Warren Ellis, Tom Raney and Bryan Hitch (Books 2018, 30)

Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier by Mark Frost (Books 2018, 5)

I watched the new series of Twin Peaks in January, but haven’t got round to writing about it yet. In part, maybe, because I knew I wanted to read this. In part, because I want to watch it all again.

The series was amazing: an incredible, beautiful, challenging piece of art. But, as always with Twin Peaks,1 there was the question at the back of my mind: is he using surrealism to raise real questions, to investigate mysteries, to raise our consciousness? Or is it just weirdness for weirdness’s sake?2

In the end I lean towards the former. Maybe the whole thing is like a zen koan: if a portal opens in Ghostwood Forest and no-one is there to see it, what will come through?

Anyway, addressing the book at hand, what we have is quite a short volume which is presented as being a report from FBI Special Agent Tamara Preston to Deputy Director Gordon Cole (played by Lynch himself in the show, of course). Its ostensible purpose is for her to summarise what she and the Bureau have learned from the events that the recent series covered, and some other offscreen investigations. It follows on from, and comments on, last year’s Secret History of Twin Peaks.

Much of it repeats what was in the series, but it does add detail and help to clarify some things. For example it’s probably not a spoiler to confirm that the girl in the 1950s in the glorious nightmare of episode 8 was, indeed, Sarah Palmer, as Warren Ellis has speculated. (It was in his newsletter, which doesn’t seem to have a public archive.)

But it also follows up on what happened to most of the characters from the the original series that we didn’t hear about in the new one, giving us much-needed closure. Or at least convincing us that the creators didn’t totally forget about Donna, for example. Along the way it does what the new series failed to do, in that it answers the question raised at the end of the original series: “How’s Annie?”

It’s worth reading, but it doesn’t remove the need for me to watch the whole new series again.


  1. And maybe with all of David Lynch’s work. []
  2. “Everybody’s wild at heart and weird on top.” []
Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier by Mark Frost (Books 2018, 5)

Sourdough by Robin Sloan (Books 2018, 4)

Strange one this. I think I learned about it from Warren Ellis, via his newsletter (which is well worth reading, by the way).

A woman takes a programming job in San Francisco. Chance leads her to gain possession of a sourdough starter culture with unusual properties. She learns to bake bread, and some other things happen.

It was OK. Quite fun. And if we’re comparing novels set in San Francisco tech culture, it was better than, say, Transmission, by Hari Kunzru which I’ve read and didn’t enjoy, but didn’t blog about; much, much, much better than The Circle; but probably not as good as All the Birds in Sky.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan (Books 2018, 4)

Normal by Warren Ellis (Books 2016, 11)

I’m not sure this counts as a novel, by length, but never mind. Released as four Kindle-only ebooks over four weeks, it builds up into at least a novella. And a pretty god one. Very much built on problems of today, it concerns a group of people at an institution that cares for sufferers of “abyss gaze”: futurists who have thought too much about possible futures, until doing so broke their brains.

It’s an interesting idea, and of course to make it a story, a crisis happens. Well worth a read.

Normal by Warren Ellis (Books 2016, 11)

Lazarus Churchyard: The Final Cut, by Warren Ellis and D’Israeli (Books 2008, 14)

Hmmm, once again I try a Warren Ellis, and find that it’s not as good as I expected, or hoped. ‘Good’, that is, in the sense of ‘exciting, dramatic, interesting’. I didn’t dislike it, and the story was OK; but it never really caught fire, you know?

Still, it was his debut, so maybe the thing is to try some of his later work (I should also add that, at the time of publishing, if not the time of reading or writing, I am regularly reading and enjoying “FreakAngels”:http://freakangels.com/).

I should probably mention the artwork, not least since I met the artist at Eastercon. It’s similar, actually, in that, while it’s perfectly fine, I kind of hoped it would be better. I couldn’t say that there’s anything wrong with it: you can always tell what’s going on, for example. I think maybe it’s that the style is a bit too cartoonish for the material.

The eponymous Lazarus is four hundred years old, and as far as he knows, immortal and indestructible, by virtue of some large percentage of his body having been replaced with smart plastics. He’s the only one in this condition, though, and he’s not happy about it. The main driver of the plot is his desire to die; or at least, we are led to understand that this will be the main driver. In fact it’s not, and each episode within the overall work has its own antagonism.

There’s a lot of extreme violence and brutality, some interesting ideas, but it’s sadly unmemorable.

Lazarus Churchyard: The Final Cut, by Warren Ellis and D’Israeli (Books 2008, 14)